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280. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Acting Secretary of State 1

SUBJECT

  • Briefing Material for the Castro Visit

Under cover of this memorandum I am transmitting to you sixteen briefing papers (Tab A)2 on various subjects, some of which may come up in your conversations with Prime Minister Castro at tomorrow’s luncheon. I would think that the principal substantive topics which he may raise are the Cuban sugar quota and the possibility of securing financial aid from the United States. Among your guests will be Mr. Lawrence Myers from the United States Department of Agriculture who is a well-known authority in matters pertaining to sugar and Mr. John Parke Young, Chief of the Department’s International Finance Division, who, incidentally, is personally acquainted with Felipe Pazos, the President of the National Bank of Cuba. The Biographic Intelligence Division has furnished us with sketches of all the Cubans who will attend your luncheon which are also attached.3

Various agencies of the U.S. Government which might possibly become substantively concerned with this visit have been advised that they may receive requests to discuss problems relating to Cuba from Castro or from the members of his official party and are being supplied with suitable briefing material. We have not attempted to make any definitive appointments because we have not been asked to do so by the Cubans.

Although I personally have grave doubts concerning the character and motivation of Prime Minister Castro, I agree with Ambassador Bonsal’s thought expressed in his telegram today (Tab B)4 that we should hear Castro out with patience and be willing to discuss with him any matter which he may care to bring up. Dr. Castro is being subjected to pressure from members of his own government (including, I believe, the Ministers who are accompanying him on this trip) to abandon his anti-U.S. stand and to recognize the economic [Page 469]facts of life with regard to the U.S.-Cuba relationship. I feel that our opportunity to talk with Castro during your luncheon and his visit with Vice President Nixon may be our last opportunities to influence favorably his current thinking and deter him from leading Cuba into a position of nationalistic neutralism, which the communists will exploit to the fullest.

It is my thought that we should answer Castro frankly even at the risk of offending him. I do not say this without misgivings, since should he return to Cuba in a hostile mood, I believe that he would not hesitate to attempt reprisals against the many American interests there, including our important Guantanamo Naval Base. Nevertheless, I do not believe that any long-run end will be served by any attempt at appeasement.

  1. Source: Department of State, Rubottom–Mann Files: Lot 62 D 418, Cuba (Jan.–Apr.) 1959. Confidential. Drafted by Stevenson and concurred in by Murphy.
  2. Not attached to the source text, but see the editorial note, infra. A set of the briefing papers is in Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, Briefing Book for Castro Visit.
  3. Not attached to the source text, but the biographic sketches are ibid.
  4. Not attached to the source text, but reference is presumably to Document 277.